I am halfway to paying off my mortgage and suddenly progress feels incredibly hard – as if I’m carrying a backpack filled with rocks. My motivation is sagging in the no-man’s land of neither here nor there, and I suspect I’m not alone in feeling this way.
Paying off the mortgage is the Number One Financial Goal on my ‘to do’ list – the other big task being to accumulate a retirement fund that will keep Ms Accumulator and I supplied with tea and cake in our dotage.
Currently 50% of our savings go into cash, 50% into index trackers, and a big, fat 0% goes to the mortgage company. This way, all mortgage allocated funds remain in our control. Who knows, I could be binned off at work tomorrow so I want the flexibility. Come the happy day, when we hit the magic number, we can pay off the debt in one fell swoop as our mortgage deal allows unlimited overpayments.
But that day is a long way off and, according to classic psychological theories of motivation, goal-orientated performance can vary depending on how you measure progress. If you’re staring at the finish line then motivation increases during the sprint towards the end.
For example, if your financial goal is to save £1,000, then things get very exciting as you hit the £900 mark.
The opposite is true if you judge progress from your start-point. When you begin, you get an early rocket boost as you go from zero to – well, anything’s better than that.
Without even realising it, I based the progress of our top financial goal around the start-point. Having anything in the mortgage pot at all felt like a small wonder of the world because we’d spent many years avoiding even thinking about it.
I drew more motivation juice by calculating the lifestyle changes we could make, drawing up savings targets, and spreadsheets to track ’em, and after that watching the monthly savings drip-drip into a creditable stumpy stalagmite of assets.
Endurance of the camel
But now… now the only thing to do is to keep going. It’s like plodding across the Sahara. I can see countless footsteps trailing behind me, and nothing but empty miles of sand ahead.
Everything that’s in my control feels like it has been done. There are few costs left to cut. Positive steps to up the ante would require drastic action like:
- Taking in a lodger
- Getting a second job
All are a sacrifice too far at this stage.
Fear is playing its part. There’s no doubt that hitting the halfway point has flicked a psychological switch in my head. Previously I felt we had little to lose. Now with so much achieved, but so much more to do, I fear that something will go wrong with the finishing line still far out of reach.
I hope to pick up a second wind as we start the downward slope of the journey – that the excitement will build as we claw our way towards the endpoint. Still, it feels like we need to be well over the halfway hump for that momentum to kick in.
In the meantime, I’m taking solace from the fact that goal-setting theory is on our side because our top financial goal is:
- Accepted: We remain fully committed to the goal. I could imagine living in our current house for the rest of my days and the thought that no-one could take it away from us, regardless of rampant interest rates or a career cataclysm is a powerful spur to finish the job.
- Specific: There’s a number to hit. I know how much we have to save, every month, and for how long, in order to get there.
- Difficult: Goals that are too easy or too difficult wither our interest. Business leaders Gergen and Vanourek suggest that goals should be “BHAGs – big, hairy, audacious goals – that really stretch us”.
- Susceptible to feedback: I could get extra support from Money Saving Expert’s Debt-Free Wannabe forum board, but for now a spreadsheet tracker and the occasional chat with Ms Accumulator about our mortgage-free dream is enough.
Pull yourself together man [slap!]
Despite the slump, I don’t fear falling off the wagon. Our financial goal is too important and too well-aligned with what we want for that to happen.
Bouts of despondency are only to be expected. If you’re in a similar funk then I can tell you that reappraising your motivation for achieving your goal help refresh your spirit (writing this post has been part of that process for me).
I bet it would also have helped if my former self had written a note to the future me about why we are doing it. I wouldn’t have wanted to let me down.
I’m going to try a couple of other things, too:
- Setting some clear short-term goals – paying off the mortgage is a long-term aim. Hitting some quick-fire targets in the meantime may well take my mind off how far there is to go.
- Finding some inspiration – I know a few people who’ve paid off their mortgage early through blood and toil. I’m going to find out how it made them feel once they’d done it. Hopefully that’ll act like some kind of dream caffeine, clarifying my vision and redoubling my energy.
I wonder how Monevator readers have coped when they’ve hit the wall in pursuit of their financial goals? Let us know below!
Take it steady,